What Salary Do I Need To Live Comfortably?

How much money do you need to live comfortably? Making a livable wage can be a struggle for a lot of people in America and how much you need to live a comfortable life will vary by state.

What Salary Do I Need To Live Comfortably?

The costs of housing, bills, extra expenses, and medical care can add up, and that’s before we even think about college tuition.

In this article, we look at what kind of salary you will need to live comfortably and how this varies state by state. Let’s jump in.

What Is The Living Wage?

Different from a minimum wage, a living wage is how much money one needs to earn to maintain a normal standard of living.

This means how much you need to not just get by and survive, but to live comfortably. It also includes things like health insurance, retirement savings, childcare, transportation, and other necessities.

The living wage is determined by looking at data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and comparing it with median household income.

The ACS asks respondents if they are employed or self-employed. If they’re unemployed, it asks them if they have worked in the last 12 months.

If they have worked in the past year, it then asks them how many hours per week they work. From this information, the ACS calculates the average weekly earnings for full-time workers.

To determine a living wage, the ACS divides the median household income by the number of hours worked per week.

Then, it multiplies that figure by 40 to account for taxes. Finally, it adds on an additional $6,000 to cover healthcare costs.

This calculation does not take into account any type of benefits such as paid leave or sick days. However, it should give us a good idea of how much money someone would need to make to live comfortably.

How Much Money Does A Full-Time Worker Need To Make To Live Comfortably?

According to the ACS, a full-time worker needs to make $14.09 per hour to live comfortably. This means that a single person working 40 hours per week would need to make $56,800 per year to meet their living standards.

For a family of two adults and two children, that same amount would go up to $74,400 per year.

Averages don’t tell the whole story though. Some states pay more than others, so let’s dive deeper and see which ones offer the best opportunities to make a living wage.

  • Alabama is $60,016.
  • Alaska is $91,996.
  • Arizona is $68,504.
  • Arkansas is $59,641.
  • California is $99,971.
  • Colorado is $74,215.
  • Connecticut is $90,278.
  • Delaware is $71,254.
  • Florida is $67,614.
  • Georgia is $62,074.
  • Hawaii is $136,437.
  • Idaho is $66,486.
  • Illinois is $66,847.
  • Iowa is $63,397.
  • Kentucky is $63,086.
  • Louisiana is $63,842.
  • Maine is $80,336.
  • Maryland is $92,227.
  • Massachusetts is $93,895.
  • Michigan is $67,712.
  • Minnesota is $68,944.
  • Mississippi is $58,321.
  • Missouri is $60,858.
  • Montana is $70,719.
  • Nebraska is $65,162.
  • Nevada is $75,902.
  • New Hampshire is $74,415.
  • New Jersey is $86,244.
  • New Mexico is $63,629.
  • New York is $95,724.
  • North Carolina is $64,406.
  • North Dakota is $69,085.
  • Ohio is $63,204.
  • Oklahoma is $60,318.
  • Oregon is $93,285.
  • Pennsylvania is $68,581.
  • Rhode Island is $83,942.
  • South Carolina is $65,953.
  • South Dakota is $67,657.
  • Tennessee is $60,682.
  • Texas is $63,469.
  • Utah is $67,807.
  • Vermont is $83,878.
  • Virginia is $69,886.
  • Washington is $77,207.
  • West Virginia is $62,635.

State Difference

What Salary Do I Need To Live Comfortably?

As you can see, average salaries, house prices, and therefore living wages vary widely across the US. In some areas, a single income may not be enough to cover basic needs. Housing and other expenses can add up quickly.

Some people are forced to work two or more jobs just to afford necessities. In some states, living wages are much higher than the national average.

In other states, living wages are lower than the national average. On average, you need $2,965.00 to cover your expenses in all 50 US States.

The living wage is ultimately the income to cover your expenses combined with your savings.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as the 50/30/20 budgeting rule that allocates 50% of your salary to necessities, 30% to other expenses, and 20% to savings, to live comfortably whilst still saving for the future, you would need to be earning the figures stated above depending on which state you lived in.

What If I Don’t Earn The Living Wage?

If you do not earn what you need to live comfortably, then you will have to adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

You could try to save more, cut back on spending, find another job or even move somewhere else where costs are cheaper.

It’s important to remember that if you choose to change your lifestyle, it will take time to adapt to a new way of life.

Tips On Savings

You should always start by setting aside money towards savings. Saving 10% of your monthly income each month is recommended.

However, this varies between individuals. A good starting point is 15%. Once you reach this figure, you can increase the percentage every month until you get to 25-35%.

This amount allows you to build a solid emergency fund, and if the wage you are on ever fails to cover basic expenses, you have something to fall back on.

How Much Do I Need To Save To Retire Comfortably?

Most experts say your retirement income should be around 80% of your pre-retirement annual income.

This simply means if you make $100,000 each year, at retirement, you need at least $80,000 per year to have a comfortable lifestyle even after leaving work. 

This amount can be adjusted depending on what other sources of income you have.

This ranges from Social Security pensions, part-time employment, and factors such as medical care, your health, and kind of lifestyle. If you want to travel more in retirement, you are going to have to save more.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has told you all you need to know about how the living wage varies state by state and to live a comfortable life, this is what you need to be earning depending on where you live in the country.

Remember,  wherever you live, if it is at all possible, you need to be contributing to savings.

Having a savings account means not only will you be building for retirement, but you also will have an emergency fund for any medical expenses, college tuition, or house maintenance repairs. 

Most people do not earn a living wage and this means adjusting your lifestyle is the best course of action.

Remember to live your life as full as possible, but always budget what you earn, and you could be on your way to a comfortable retirement in no time!

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Fred Combes
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